‘Jalsa’ director Suresh Triveni: Working with Vidya Balan spoils you; it’s high time Shefali Shah got her due – Exclusive! – Times of India

After ‘Tumhari Sulu‘ in 2017, filmmaker Suresh Triveni returns with ‘Jalsa‘, a totally different genre film, that premieres on OTT tomorrow. The film features Vidya Balan, who also headlined the cast of his directorial debut, ‘Tumhari Sulu’; and Shefali Shah, whose work he admires a lot. The audience was sold right at the gripping trailer of the film that revolves around an incident that impacts the lives of two women coming from different social strata, played by these two leading ladies. Ahead of the film’s release Suresh got candid with ETimes and shared interesting tidbits about his latest project, working with Vidya Balan and Manav Kaul once again, being enamored with Shefali Shah‘s talent, not opting for a theatrical release and more.

The name ‘Jalsa’ itself has created quite an intrigue around the film which is an investigative thriller. Putting an end to our misery, Suresh explained the reasons that justify the title. “‘Jalsa’ has a relevance in the plot. It will be best revealed when the narrative plays. There is something… But apart from that for me, ‘Jalsa’ because it’s a congregation of ironies. It’s a congregation of lives coming together. It’s a congregation of coincidences. And outside the film, if I have to say ‘Jalsa’, because I’ve got two fantastic actors supported by a brilliant cast around, where at least I can promise you an acting feast, if nothing.”

From a breezy, feel good, slice of life film ‘Tumhari Sulu’ in 2017, to a hardcore investigative thriller ‘Jalsa’ in 2022, it’s been quite a transition for Suresh. Asked whether it was a conscious decision for him, he says, “I get bored by things very easily. And as a viewer also, because primarily, I’m a viewer of movies, I am interested in multiple genres. And how do you push your own craft and not get secure in what you’ve already done? That’s an equal challenge. Like, for example, there will be something which will be common in all the films that I do, will be the string of emotions. So it’s not just a whodunit. It’s more than that. So I would call it a drama, with elements of thrill and a strong current of emotions that run through. So that’s how I prioritise the film when it comes to the genre.”

It’s hard to not notice another common thread between ‘Tumhari Sulu’ and ‘Jalsa’ – the presence of both Vidya Balan and Manav Kaul. Suresh says he won’t mind collaborating over and over again because of the sheer value that these talented artistes bring to the table. “I think working with Vidya spoils you. I had a brilliant experience making ‘Tumhari Sulu’ with her. Why wouldn’t I take the journey forward? Because where do you get such a fine actor of that caliber willing to tell your stories in the best possible manner. And when it comes to Manav, he had told me after ‘Tumhari Sulu’ that whatever it is, he will do even if it’s a role of passing by, he will do it. So I held on to that. And these are people who give me strength to tell my stories the way I want to. So why should I deny that experience?”

In the same breath, Suresh does not forget to acknowledge the value that Shefali Shah has added to ‘Jalsa’, even though it is his first collaboration with her. “I have been enamored with her talent. And for the longest time, we always asked the same question that why isn’t she getting her due? In the last couple of years, the way she has kind of exploded in the entertainment business, it was high time. Right from ‘Monsoon Wedding’ to something like ‘Juice’ (short film) to something like ‘Satya’, she’s always who lights up a screen with her performance. This was something which I was very, very keen on. And most of my process starts about thinking what if, and in this case, I thought that individually I’ve seen with Vidya Balan, individually I’ve seen Shefali Shah. What if I bring them together? First thing as an audience, wouldn’t I like to watch a film where both of them are together? And then the director in me said that, ‘Okay, let’s try this point and see where it goes.'”

suresh shefali

The trailer of ‘Jalsa’ is gripping alright, but in one particular scene, Shefali Shah makes you stop and think hard. ‘Aapki ladki raat ke 3 baje bahar ghoom rahi thi…’ questions a man to which Shefali retorts, ‘Toh thok dene ka usko?’ This powerful scene sums up everything that is wrong about the mindset of our society towards women, in one line. Suresh lets us in on the process and says, “It’s a crucial dialogue in the film. And I think dialogues always talks, most of the time that I think dialogues are something that you retain back in a trailer or otherwise. I’m very happy that line kind of resonated with many who have watched the trailer. There is an incident that triggers that dialogue in the film. I was sitting and analysing the other day that ‘Tumhari Sulu’ was about a lady who goes to work in the night, and she did a late night show. And this one has a crucial dialogue ke 3 baje kar ya rahi thi? Toh thok deneka? The dialogues have been written by Hussain Dalal and Abbas Dalal along with me. It was amongst various lines that we arrived at, but dialogues are mere words on a paper. But when an actor says it, like if you see the pause with which Shefali said it, we didn’t cut. Whatever is there in the scene, we exactly put it in the trailer. And it’s about how Shefali says it. There is a situation where she says it. And that situation requires a certain sanctity about the way she says it, and boy, isn’t she wonderful!”

At a time when filmmakers are eyeing a theatrical release for their projects, Suresh has a different way of looking at ‘Jalsa’ going straight to the OTT platform. “I was very, very clear about this particular film that I wanted to go to the OTT. I’ll tell you the two reasons for it. As a filmmaker, who doesn’t want to see their film on a big screen? But I also wanted to… because in the last two years, the amount of exposure that all of us had to these different mediums, I feel that it’s only complementing to the world of entertainment. I wanted to, as a storyteller, explore this phase also. And the uncertainty of the theatricals and all of it, we don’t want to… that’s something which was always playing in my head. But most importantly, it’s a story which I felt can connect to a much, much, much, much, much wider audience. And what better than going to Amazon Prime, catering us 240 countries plus territories, and you’re actually exposing yourself to a much bigger audience and see how it resonates. And as a filmmaker, I can also get a sense of the responses.”


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